This month will mark 7 years since I started Hannah’s Kitchen. People always ask how I got into this business and it is an interesting story. Back in 2009 my daughter, Eva, was a baby and I was a stay at home mom. There was a need for the Congregation Beth Israel’s Sister to find a new fundraiser and I suggested that we sell challah for Rosh Hashanah. We sold over 200 challahs that Rosh Hashanah, at the time, that seemed like a lot. We had a group of volunteers who gathered, my grandfather in his 90’s was the oldest, down to a lot of my stay at home mom friends, and our kids were around while we worked on this endeavour. Three months later I took over the kiddish lunches for the sisterhood at Congregation Beth Israel.
Slowly over time it evolved and about 3 years in I was volunteering 20 hours plus a week overseeing synagogue lunches, dinners, and private events. A donor stepped up and wanted to expand our lunch offerings to be more extensive weekly and when I received the call I gave them an estimate on the cost for the expanded kiddish lunches. But I also said they needed to hire a kitchen manager knowing how much volunteer time I was putting in. Well, the donor wanted me to take the position… I was very hesitant, but was convinced that I was the right choice. Slowly I built Kehilla Catering for Congregation Beth Israel Ner Tamid, we had a pool of 100 volunteers that worked to shop, cook, serve and clean up for events, as well as paid staff that worked with us.
When my life took some turns, I never saw coming, I was at a crossroads, and wasn’t sure what to do next. I was a single mom to three, my youngest was 18 month old and home full time with me. The fulfillment I felt catering for life cycle events, and doing other meals at CBINT made me feel like that was my future. I registered my LLC one night and that was the start to a crazy, fun and lovely journey, I am still on!
Over the last 7 years, I have worked with Ovation communities as a consulting chef, overseeing large events, and doing demos. Oversaw the Mequon Jewish Preschool lunch program for 1 1/2 years, till covid hit. Catered at almost every synagogue in Milwaukee, of all observance levels, and gottne to be a part of so many family events, synagogue events, fundraisers and more.
Before covid we were mostly focused on catering but when large events were not happening, we needed to figure out a plan. During quarantine, I felt it was a time to show who I am, and why I love what I do. Doing some cooking demos from home with my kids, was as covid quarinitine as it got! There is one where at the end my youngest, Miriam, touches a hot pan and you see me trying to end the video why I am checking on her.. ,though I could have edited that out, it was all of our reality at the time! I started experimenting with babkas, bagels, and a lot more. But I saw a need, so the next step was our online menus.
The online menus started as themed menus twice a month, then weekly and then we added Shabbat menus on. Special orders were coming in at times but catering really took a long time to come back. Being on the Karl Family Campus now, has been an amazing opportunity to expand and be in the center of our community. Then expanding to our offshoot at the kosher style snack shack at the Hy and Richard Smith Jcc Waterpark was amazing over this last summer. We also did our first farmers market and just found more ways to get out there.
We are busy catering again and keeping all these new ways to feed and connect with the community has been amazing. Daily I see ways to improve and grow, and it is challenging and exciting. I could not do any of what I do without my team behind me. They step up and put out amazing food, and take the challenges on full force. As we keep growing we will expand our team and I know that we will find more amazing people to add to the Hannah’s Kitchen family.
I look forward to one day throwing a big party celebrating all we have done, inviting the staff, and all the people we have had the joy to work with! Right now my plan is to throw Hannah’s Kitchen a Bat Mitzvah party when we hit 12 years!